“BSL is an incredible language.” Meet: CSW Jessica Harvey, who incorporates BSL in her illustrations

Posted on January 27, 2016

Here is an interview with hearing artist Jessica Harvey, who incorporates BSL in her work. 

What made you first become interested in BSL and how did you learn it?

BSL is such a visually impressive language and I became quickly fascinated by it as I was growing up. After university I decided to go for it and start learning. After completing BSL Level 1 at Remark! I felt completely addicted and raced through Level 2 and 3. I’m now working as a CSW in Further Education colleges around South West London and learning all about construction, clothes making, ESOL and childcare, to name a few, with our lovely students. *Cheers* to a lifetime of signing!

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And when did you first start making art?

We’ve always been an extremely creative family. Our creativity was largely kept alive by the family tradition that we make thank you cards for every gift that we ever received. These cards became more wild and artistic, containing collage, illustrations and bizarre designs, as our young imaginations were given free reign.

I actually studied Music at university, specialising in writing music scores, which were always incredibly visual. I incorporated photography, hand-drawn artwork, video and storytelling as I have always felt equally engaged with my eyes as I am with my ears.

It was during this time that I discovered illustration. I created a piece called ‘Tjusad’, which had an illustrated score, with magical fantasy characters running around between the music notes and a narrator reading out one of my stories. That’s where the journey really started for me.

How have you developed your skills?

I created an illustration blog and various social media sites, so that I could share my work with others and receive feedback. This helped to motivate my art-making and soon enough I’d invented many different monsters and sneaky animal characters.

I also completed a short course in Children’s Illustration at Central Saint Martins, to brush up my technical skills and learn about the perspectives of real-life illustrators. This time was extremely inspiring and exciting; we experimented with bleach, wax, model-making, embossing and storyboards to name a few! The course opened my eyes to new tools, styles and ways of working.

I will always have a soft spot for pencil and watercolours, they suit the dream-like, fantasy feeling of my characters and help the viewer to float away into their imaginations. As much as my paintings develop, I always seem to return to these materials.

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How do you include BSL in your work?

BSL is an incredible language, I’ve been signing myself for a few years and am in awe of it. I feel like there is not enough artwork that incorporates BSL so have decided to accept the challenge.

It’s been tricky as my characters are usually animals and monsters, which rarely have fingers, so I’ve been thinking of signs that paws, hooves and claws can make like ‘make’, ‘determined’ or ‘equality’. I long for there to be art that uses BSL as a new form of expression, rather than just for educational purposes.

What is your favourite painting you’ve done?

I enjoy artwork with a tongue-and-cheek sense of humour and still smile when I see ‘Chums’. This painting features many of my characters climbing on top of one another, trying to find their way out…pure silliness.

What’s next for you?

I hope that people will be curious about my new BSL project and set illustration challenges for me- signing creatures, your pets in funny situations or even drawing monsters from your nightmares.

If you have a friend or relative with a special occasion coming up then get in touch through the Contact page on my website, I am now making personalised cards and prints!

Check out Jessica’s illustrations or contact her through these sites:



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Posted in: interviews